[Paleopsych] WP: Where Lawlessness May Roam
checker at panix.com
Sun May 8 19:16:22 UTC 2005
Where Lawlessness May Roam
The Washington Post, Sunday Outlook section, 5.5.8
By Richard Morin
Where Lawlessness May Roam
We're certainly not encouraging it, but if you're thinking about going
on a crime spree and you're scouting for locations, you might want to
check out a 50-square-mile sliver of western Idaho.
In this remote corner of Yellowstone National Park, a quirky
confluence of constitutional technicalities and a goof by Congress
more than a century ago may have produced a lawless oasis smack in the
heart of God's Country, claims Brian C. Kalt, an associate professor
of law at Michigan State University.
Kalt insists that his reading of the law is correct -- at least in
theory. "The courts may or may not agree that my loophole exists," he
acknowledged in his essay "The Perfect Crime" in the forthcoming issue
of the Georgetown Law Journal.
Kalt says he's not interested in trying to help crooks, but rather in
forcing Congress to tidy up the law books. "Crime is bad, after all.
But so is violating the Constitution. If the loophole . . . does exist
it should be closed, not ignored," he writes in an article that mixes
serious scholarship with humor.
At the heart of the problem is an obscure bit of legalese buried in
the Sixth Amendment known as the "vicinage" requirement. (For
non-lawyers, vicinage refers to the neighborhood where the crime took
place, while venue refers to the location of the trial itself.)
The amendment requires that jurors be "of the State and district
wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have
been previously ascertained by law." From a legal perspective, the
problem with Yellowstone Park is that it does not quite fit in
Wyoming: Nine percent of the park spills into Montana (about 260
square miles' worth) and Idaho (about 50 square miles). The park was
established in 1872, well before the three states were added to the
union, and Congress put the entire park in the judicial district of
Wyoming -- the only federal court district that includes land in more
than one state.
At the same time, Kalt said, legislators unwittingly created a
potential "Zone of Death." Here's how it might work:
"Say that you are in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone, and you decide
to spice up your vacation by going on a crime spree. You make some
moonshine, you poach some wildlife, you strangle some people and steal
their picnic baskets. You are arrested, arraigned in the park and
bound over for trial in Cheyenne, Wyo., before a jury drawn from the
"But Article III, Section 2 [of the Constitution] plainly requires
that the trial be held in Idaho, the state in which the crime was
committed. Perhaps if you fuss convincingly enough about it, the case
would be sent to Idaho. But the Sixth Amendment then requires that the
jury be from the state (Idaho) and the district (Wyoming) in which the
crime was committed. In other words, the jury would have to be drawn
from the Idaho portion of Yellowstone National Park, which, according
to the 2000 Census, has a population of precisely zero. . . . Assuming
that you do not feel like consenting to trial in Cheyenne, you should
In short, Congress goofed back in 1890 when they made Wyoming the 44th
state. "It should either have shrunk the park or made Wyoming bigger
to include all of the park," Kalt said. Ah, legal hindsight is always
Kalt said the vagaries of venue and vicinage requirements have let
people get away with murder before. He quotes an English legal scholar
who complained in 1548 that it "often happene[d]" that a murderer
would strike his victim in one county, and "by Craft and Cautele
[caution]" escape punishment by making sure that the victim died in
the next county. "An English jury could only take cognizance of the
facts that occurred in its own county, so no jury would be able to
find that the killer had committed all of the elements of murder,"
Kalt wrote. (Rest easy. England closed that loophole centuries ago.)
But, professor, that was then. Could you really get away with murder
today in your Zone of Death? Perhaps not -- at least not completely.
Kalt notes that it "would be hard to limit your criminality to that
small space," so you could be charged with conspiracy for things you
did elsewhere to further your rampage. Prosecutors also could charge
you with lesser crimes punishable by less than six months in jail,
which do not require a jury trial. Or the victims' families could sue
the pants off you.
But the biggest deterrent may be the loophole that allowed your crime
binge in the first place. If friends and families of your victims got
wind of your plans, they might turn the tables before you left the
crime scene, giving you -- in Kalt's words -- "a dose of your own
medicine, administering vigilante justice with similar impunity."
The Unusual Name Game (Cont.)
We all know it's tough being a boy named Sue. Now it turns out it's
also a problem to be a classmate of a boy named Sue, according to
Universi ty of Florida economist David N. Figlio.
Figlio found that boys with first names typically given to girls were
more likely to misbehave in junior high school than students with less
distinctive monikers. He also discovered that boys in classes with
boys with feminine-sounding names were more likely to have discipline
problems and lower standardized test scores. He reports his findings
in a new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic
Figlio made news in this column two months ago with his finding that
children with unusual names don't fare as well in class. In his latest
analysis, he used detailed data collected on more than 76,000 students
in the late 1990s from a large school district in Florida. In exchange
for access to student records, including names and disciplinary
histories, Figlio promised not to reveal the school district or
otherwise identify individual students.
Overall Figlio found that nearly 2 percent of all boys in his sample
had names that were overwhelmingly given to girls. That means the
typical Florida middle-schooler will share about one out of every
three classes with a boy named Sue . . . or Ashley, Courtney or
But as the father of three boys, the Wiz just has to ask: How about
girls with guy-sounding names? Any effects on the other students from
going to school with a girl named Tyler or Sidney?
"I did not look as carefully at the girl-named-Brad angle, in part
because this is much more common," Figlio wrote in an e-mail. "Indeed,
Ashley, Courtney and Shannon were all once boys' names!"
The Four-Hour Workday?
Men and women may disagree on a lot of things, but in one area of life
they're in near-perfect agreement. If they had the choice, they would
work fewer hours than they do now, according to a Washington Post-ABC
News national poll conducted last month.
Equal majorities of working men (55 percent) and women (56 percent)
said they'd spend less time on the job if they could continue to have
the same standard of living. Fewer than three in 10 said they wouldn't
reduce the number of hours they spend on the job.
But few men and women want to join the leisure class entirely:
Slightly fewer than one in five women and men said they would quit
working if they could afford to.
For the survey, 650 working women and men were interviewed April
21-24. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or
minus 4 percentage points.
morinr at washpost.com
More information about the paleopsych